The European clay court swing kicks up a notch this week with the beginning of the WTA Mutua Madrid Open. The WTA 1000 event features a stacked field and should make for some incredible tennis over the next ten days. World #1 Ashleigh Barty extended her win streak on the red dirt to 12 in the first days action. Iga Swiatek – the reigning French Open champion – followed suit with her 16th consecutive win on clay. Neither are in action on day 2, but they won’t be missed in what is an action-packed schedule. We take a look at who among those taking part should advance to the next round in our WTA Madrid Open day 2 predictions.
We predict all 16 of Friday’s matches. In addition to the four matches in this article, we have three additional articles. One features Karolina Pliskova vs Cori Gauff, the second headlines Simona Halep vs Sara Sorribes Tormo, and the final features Misaki Doi vs Naomi Osaka.
WTA Madrid Open Day 2 Predictions
Qiang Wang vs Karolina Muchova
Head-to-head: First meeting
Karolina Muchova has played just one match since her run to the semifinals of the Australian Open. The Czech put together a brilliant start to the year in Melbourne. However, it is hard to know where she stands now given how little she has played since. She is certainly most comfortable on the clay, but has shown over the last two year that she possesses the game to excel on any surface. Her loss to Ekaterina Alexandrova in Stuttgart was a surprise and she will surely be looking to make amends for that in Madrid. Muchova is a rising star on the women’s tour and could well be a dark horse in this tournament. She has also been given a kind first round match against an out of touch Qiang Wang.
Wang is not brilliant on clay, and is also struggling for form with just four wins so far this year. Her 2020 season was curtailed by travel restrictions in China and she is yet to rediscover her best tennis. That being said, she is a real fighter on the women’s tour and rarely throws in the towel regardless of how well she is playing. I expect Muchova’s variety and superior record on clay to push her over the edge in this match. That being said, Wang at her best has more than enough in the locker to win a set.
Prediction: Muchova in 3
Sorana Cirstea vs Jessica Pegula
Head-to-head: 1 – 0 Pegula
Both Sorana Cirstea and Jessica Pegula are in great form heading into this tournament. Cirstea lifted her first WTA Tour title since 2008 in Istanbul last Sunday. The Romanian didn’t drop a set the entire week and looked in great touch throughout. Often tournament winners struggle with the quick turnaround when playing the next week, but the mid-week start in Madrid should go some way to stopping that. Cirstea possesses a potent backhand, a weapon she employed to great effect in Istanbul. If it is firing again in Madrid she could well upset a few people this week. Hoping to stop her winning run is American Jessica Pegula.
Pegula has been one of the in-form players on the tour over the last 12 months. She would likely be inside the top 20 if not for the protected ranking system being extended. She is currently 9th in the race to the WTA Finals and has looked good in almost every tournament she has played since the tour resumed last August. That being said, clay is not her best surface. She hasn’t had a winning record on the surface since 2015. With that in mind, I have to give the edge to Cirstea in this one, although I think it will be tight.
Prediction: Cirstea in 3
Elena Rybakina vs Ajla Tomljanovic
Head-to-head: First meeting
Elena Rybakina has had a disappointing 2021 so far by the lofty standards she set at the start of last year. The Kazakh started the year well in Abu Dhabi, but has failed to do anything of not since. She set the goal of a debut in the top ten at the start of this year and will need a good clay court swing if that goal is to remain within reach. Clay is not her best surface, with the slow dirt not rewarding her powerful, flat groundstrokes the same way hard courts do.
Nonetheless, she possesses enough power on both wings to cause trouble on any surface. She also has one of the best serves on the tour when it is firing properly. She will need it to if she is to make a decent run in Madrid. Fortunately for the young star, she faces a kind first round draw in Australian Ajla Tomljanovic.
The Aussie had a largely disappointing 2020 and started this year in a similar vein. She looked slightly better on the clay in Charleston and did well to come through qualifying in Madrid. That being said, she is still yet to play well consistently on the tour this year. A win against Rybakina would certainly go some way to rectifying that, but I’m not convinced she has the tools to pull of a win here. Rybakina does everything slightly better than Tomljanovic and should come through this match as a result.
Prediction: Rybakina in 2
Venus Williams vs Jennifer Brady
Head-to-head: First meeting
Hats off to Venus Williams, who continues to travel the world on the WTA Tour at 41 years of age. The American’s love for the game is inspiring, as is the level she is able to produce at her age. She knows she is no longer a contender for big tournaments. That being said, she is still capable of flashes of brilliance. This matchup is an opportunity for her to do just that, with Jennifer Brady being less than comfortable on clay. Williams herself has played little on the surface in recent years, but she is unlikely to have enough to beat an opponent of Brady’s calibre on another surface.
Even with Brady being on a surface she doesn’t love, the American is still one of the most in-form players on the tour in recent months. She made the final of the Australian Open this year. Brady also made the semifinal of the US Open last year. However, she is yet to make similar inroads at the French Open. A good week in Madrid would set her up nicely to do just that. This one could go either way if Venus Williams turns back the clock again. However, I think Brady has proved over the last few months that she is the real deal and one of the better players on the tour. She should continue that trend with a good week in Madrid. That good week will start with a win against her fellow countrywoman in the first round.
Prediction: Jennifer Brady in 2
Main Photo from Getty.